You want to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you when you’re accused of a crime, because a criminal defense attorney is going to have experience in representing people that are charged with crimes. Just like you wouldn’t hire a doctor that’s a brain surgeon to operate on your heart, or vide versa, you don’t want to hire an attorney that doesn’t have any experience in criminal law to represent you when you’re looking at the loss of your liberty.
The first thing that you need to do if you get charged with murder is keep your mouth shut. And by that I mean if law enforcement goes to speak to you, you need to invoke your right, both to an attorney and your right to remain silent, and do not waive that right.
The next thing you need to do is look for and retain a qualified attorney to represent you in the murder case. That attorney is going to be able to assist you in preparing a defense to this very serious charge.
Second degree murder is the unlawful killing of another human being that’s done with the intent of ill will, hatred, or evil intent. A classic example of a second degree murder is when somebody’s angry and they drive by a group of people that are standing on a street corner, and they fire into a crowd. That can potentially cause that person … If someone dies, that can cause the shooter to be charged with second degree murder.
Vehicular homicide gets charged when somebody was using their motor vehicle in a reckless fashion, which displayed a reckless disregard for human life. For instance, if somebody is driving down the streets and they’re texting while they’re driving, and in texting and driving they’re not paying attention and they kill somebody that’s crossing the street, that can be a vehicular homicide.
Murder usually calls for some form of intent. For instance, with first degree murder, you need a premeditated intent to kill, or that the killing took place during the course and commission of an underlying, qualifying felony. For a manslaughter, you just need to have an intent, an act that was intentionally undertaken. You don’t necessarily have to have the intent to kill in that act. Or also for manslaughter, you can commit manslaughter or be charged with manslaughter for doing an act through culpable negligence, which is a gross or reckless disregard for human life.
Voluntary manslaughter is when somebody does an intentional act, not intending to kill somebody, but they do an intentional act, which causes the death of another human being. Two boys are in a fight in a parking lot and one boy punches the other, the other falls, hits his head and dies. That’s voluntary manslaughter.
First degree murder is the unlawful killing of another person either by a premeditated design or while someone was engaged in the commission of a qualifying offense. Qualifying offenses are things like robbery, drug trafficking, burglary, kidnapping, arson, and such. If somebody was engaged in a qualifying offense and during the course in commission of that offense a human being died, that person can be charged under the theory of first degree felony murder. Both kinds of murder, premeditated and felony murder, can be charged the same time in the same indictment, and a jury can choose, which one of those or both they find someone guilty of. Both carry the potential penalty of either the death penalty or life imprisonment, depending on whether there are aggravating circumstances that qualify for the death penalty.
Involuntary manslaughter is when somebody engages in a course of conduct that displays a reckless disregard for human life, like for instance somebody is driving down the road, going 120 miles an hour in a 15 mile school zone, and ends up killing somebody. That can be considered manslaughter by culpable negligence, which is the equivalent of involuntary manslaughter.
Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being.
A homicide is another way of saying a murder. The bottom line is, it’s the unlawful killing of a human being by another.
If you can’t afford a private attorney to represent you in a homicide case, and you qualify as an indigent defendant, you can qualify for the services of the public defenders’ office in whatever jurisdiction you’re located in. Typically, each public defenders’ office will have a homicide division with qualified attorneys that can handle your case.
If you’re convicted of first degree murder, you could potentially be looking at the death penalty or life in prison. In Florida, life means life, which means you do not come out of prison until you die. Second degree murder can also carry a life in prison sentence. It depends on whether or not a deadly weapon was used during the course in commission of that murder. Otherwise, you’re looking at a low end on a sentencing guideline of just under 23 years.
There’s also third degree murder, which is a murder that’s committed during the course in commission of something like a grand theft motor vehicle. That typically carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in Florida State Prison.